"This is an unprecedented change in the way the World Tour provides entries to its events," explained Craig MITCHELL, World Tour Director. "For the first time, skippers and teams will have a clear path to win the World Championship, and to guarantee to their sponsors a schedule of participation."
An ongoing problem for match race teams is how to get an opportunity to play the game and advance in the World Championship standings, since competition is on an invitation only basis. And invitations have been in the specific control of the organizers and promoters of individual events. The Tour model which supplies boats and allows teams to simply show up and compete has always been compelling for match racers, hence the high demand for invites from all around the world.
For 2009 the World Tour has updated its policy for how invitations are extended to World Tour events. It is hoped that this new policy will be a vast improvement on the prior guidelines given to event organizers, and should both enable teams to better plan their season of competition and also for events to know in advance who will be competing and how best to leverage this for promotion and for sponsor fulfilment purposes.
This policy specifies that based on a 10-event schedule, and a 12-team format in the competition, that eight invitations will be allocated by the World Tour, two invitations to winners of qualifying events, and two or more wildcard invites will go to each event promoter based on their format - for example, with a 16 team format the event would have six wildcards.
For the allocation of the eight invitations from the World Tour, a new concept has also been introduced this year called the 'World Tour Card' (WTC). The scheme is that eight WTC's will be issued to teams which guarantees them an invitation to all but the final event. Teams with WTC's may compete in but not qualify at Qualifier events, and if invitations are not used they will revert back to the Tour for re-allocation.
Of these eight WTC's, the distribution will be made up as follows: four will go to the top four teams from the previous year's World Tour leaderboard; two will go to the top two teams on the ISAF World Match Race Ranking list, and two will go to the Tour for its choice of teams that will demonstrate a commitment to attend and promote World Tour events.
For teams that don't get one of the eight Tour Cards they will still be able to get invites through either an event wildcard or at one of the 18 qualifying events that feed into the World Tour events.
"This is a great step forward for both us, our sponsors and the World Tour," explained Sébastien COL (FRA), skipper for the French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge. "The World Tour is a critical part of our efforts and training to win the America's Cup and now we know which events we can plan for in 2009."
Besides the promotional and planning benefits of this new policy, there will be incentive for teams to participate on the Tour since the top four in the World Championships and top two ISAF Ranked skippers will be guaranteed the issuance of a WTC for the next year's schedule
Click here to download the 2009 Invite Policy.
World Match Racing Tour Leaderboard
(Top ten teams after Stage 8 of 9)
1. Ian WILLIAMS (GBR), Team Pindar, 92 points
2. Sébastien COL (FRA), French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge, 88
3. Mathieu RICHARD (FRA), French Match Racing Team/ French Team Spirit, 77
4. Adam MINOPRIO (NZL), ETNZ/BlackMatch Racing Team, 53
4. Torvar MIRSKY (AUS), Mirsky Racing Team, 53
6. Magnus HOLMBERG (SWE), Victory Challenge, 51
7. Mattias RAHM (SWE), Stena Bulk Sailing Team, 46
8. Paolo CIAN (ITA), Team Shosholoza, 43
9. Bjorn HANSEN (SWE), Alandia Sailing Team, 40
9. Johnie BERNTSSON (SWE), Berntsson Sailing Team, 40
ISAF Match Racing World Championship - www.sailing.org/matchworlds